Latency? Ping? Lag? What does it all mean?
Online gamers often discuss "latency," which is the time it takes for data to travel from one point on the Internet to another. You may hear gamers refer to latency as "ping" or "lag." Your "ping rate" is a measure of the time (in milliseconds) it takes for a signal to travel from your computer to your opponent’s and back.
This number tells you how good of a connection you can expect from that particular server with your computer. Ping rates will depend upon your ISP, your local telephone service, the type of connection you have, the type of modem you have, etc.
Ping rates of under 200 are considered excellent. Ping rates of 200-300 are OK but not great. Over 300 pings and things start to get a little "iffy"; the "lag" on these servers makes it all but impossible to fly with any accuracy. This can be frustrating, which is why it's so important to check ping rates before logging onto any server.
If you have a slow connection to the Internet, or if one of the Internet gateways or servers between you and your opponent is especially busy, you’ll experience high latency, and you may see delays or disruption in your game. In addition to choppy or jerky game play, you’ll be helpless against the attacks of your opponent if he or she has lower latency than you. To avoid getting trounced, you can take steps to ensure a good online gaming experience and equal footing with your opponent when you go into battle.
The most important step in achieving low latency is getting a fast connection to the Internet. A 56-Kbps modem will work well, or better yet, get broadband Internet access. Make sure that you have the most recent modem drivers available from your modem's manufacturer (visit the manufacturer’s Web site for more information), and find a reliable Internet service provider.
To test your connection, open a DOS window. To do this under WIN 95\98 go to Start|programs|MS-Dos Prompt. Once the prompt is open type, "ping 12.34.567.89" ( where the numbers are the IP address of the server your testing the connection to ). If you receive the message "request timed out" more than once, you connection might produce poor quality. This message occurs when information is lost or dropped.
Graphics-intensive games will work better if you optimize the performance of your computer. Defragment your hard disk regularly, and close any programs you don’t need before you start a game, so there is nothing else draining power from your computer.